We just received our first truckload of 2012 Wrens Abruzzi Rye (from grower Billy Carter/ Moore Co) and Turkey Red and NuEast wheat (from growers father/son duo, Kenny and Ben Haines/ Chowan Co). We’ve almost emptied our last totes of 2011 rye and hard red winter wheat, so watching our mill room fill back up feels like the natural ebb and flow of this mill, reflective of the seasons. Planting is just a couple months away. We must assess our acreage and variety needs for 2013.
One of the many challenges we face with this project is that as a pioneering effort, we have no wave to ride or example to follow. Back when I was a baker, it seemed all I had to do was bake the best bread out there, and the business would succeed. Everyone eats bread. Bread sells. Selling flour is not quite that simple. Comparing our flour to that of the milling industry is like comparing apples to peaches, in that both are fruit, both are round, but they are different species all together. Our wholegrain flours are extraordinary. The 48 inches that span our stones create a fine flour with a uniform consistency. And yet, the brunt of what most bakeries use is not whole grain flour. I tell the bakers, when offering samples of our sifted flour-- a stone ground flour whose germ is crushed into the endosperm, spreading its oils, nutrients, and flavor, with just the larger bran sifted out-- that this beige flour is the flour that those recipes that call for both whole wheat and white flour are trying to recreate. We chose stone because we saw no better way to showcase these regionally produced grains than cold milling between stone-- preserving both nutrients and flavor, and conveying a taste of our region. We are a tradition of a different time and a different place, so finding our place here and now is part of the work necessary in rebuilding a unique sustainable local food system.
The other day, a lead baker at one of the larger bakeries we are working with pulled me and Stewart (our new hire/miller-in-training) aside to show us the hamburger buns he’d made with our Type 55 bread flour (45 parts sifted out). Said baker was elated. The quality of this flour had him. He was able to use a half ounce less dough in each bun and achieve the same size through loft. The flavor was pronounced. His eyes sparkled as he described working with the dough made from this flour. He said, now this is quality. And yet this flour-- the more refined flour we are producing-- is a hard stretch in terms of price point for a larger bakery. And so sadly he only gets to play with the samples I offer up to him for experimentation. We, as a craft mill, are hard pressed to compete with the speed and efficiency of the milling industry’s roller milling technology. But we are not trying to be that ‘white flour.’ We are something all together different. We have opted for quality above quantity, and still, we face the challenge of defining ourselves, finding our niche, and simply moving product.
Next week I travel to the triangle region to meet with various bakeries that have shown interest in supporting NC grain growers.You readers out there from the triangle region, look out of our ‘made with Carolina Ground Flour’ signage we hope to be placing in various bakeries (and restaurants) in the triangle region. And if you don’t see our brand, ask your baker to support this effort.
From the ground up,